Although he was a free agent for about five weeks, Darren O'Day was never really not an Oriole. The team re-introduced him to media in a press conference at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Tuesday afternoon. Alongside of manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette, O'Day, sporting a killer 'stache, told reporters that "in my heart of hearts" he always hoped he would be coming back.
The Orioles reportedly had surged into the top spot late in the process because they were the team willing to offer O'Day a fourth guaranteed year. If there were any lingering doubts about that, neither of the O's brain trust put them on display in the press conference.
Duquette praised O'Day as someone who has "put up four years almost as good as any other relief pitcher in Major League Baseball." You aren't going to find many relief pitchers who have an ERA under 2.00 over the past four seasons. O'Day, with a 1.92 ERA in his time in Baltimore, has numbers just like that.
Unsurprisingly, Showalter sounded positive about getting to hold onto a player like that. "What he is," said Showalter, "is what we want." O'Day is someone whom Showalter trusts, and that is important. He said he knows, as fans know, that not every game will be perfect, but you know what you're going to get from him each and every day, both as a pitcher and as a leader in the clubhouse.
The extra dollars surely didn't hurt in having O'Day return here, but it was also clear that the comfort level he already has with the Baltimore team, and Showalter in particular, meant something to him. O'Day told reporters that he knows Showalter will take care of him physically, which was an important factor for him as he hopes to be pitching beyond the expiration of this contract in 2019.
O'Day also made note of an idea that came up in his negotiations with the team about legacy. If O'Day pitches for another four years here in Baltimore, he knows that he might be able to challenge the franchise record for games pitched, currently held by Jim Palmer. O'Day has appeared in 273 games as an Oriole over four seasons. Palmer's record is 558 games. He said it "means a lot in the era of free agency" to get to stay with one team for long enough to move up the franchise leaderboard like that.
Speaking of those negotiations, Duquette mentioned at the press conference that it was assistant GM Brady Anderson who did most of that negotiating. More fuel for the fire that fellow Camden Chatter Alex Conway thinks Brady will be the next GM some day? Perhaps!
In his remarks and answers, O'Day also spoke about the unorthodox path he has taken to get to this point. He noted that he went from being lightly recruited out of high school to failing to make a college team as a walk-on throwing overhand, and even once he made it into the professional ranks as a side-armer, he changed teams four times without ever being traded.
There were many players and coaches along the way, veterans when he was younger who helped him. He said he reached out to some of them before signing this contract to let them know he couldn't have done it without them, and he hopes that some day, "when I'm out on a golf cart somewhere," he might hear from some young pitchers he's worked with the same way when they get to sign a big contract for themselves.
As for how that influence might carry over to lobbying free agents, specifically Chris Davis, whom O'Day has known since 2009 when they were both on the Rangers, well... O'Day joked that his new mustache might entice Davis - "a mustache enthusiast", as he described his teammate of six years - to think "(Davis) couldn't stand not seeing this for a while."
But at the same time, he knows it comes down to money. O'Day spoke a bit about his own situation with the Orioles when it looked like they might not re-sign him. "Four years ago, Buck's only move as GM, he claimed me for free," O'Day noted. "That price escalated pretty quickly. If they thought there was other value somewhere, that's their choice." Showalter joked of the waiver claim that brought O'Day to Baltimore as "a good one to retire on (as GM)" because there would be no topping that "one and done."
A reporter tried to get Duquette to bite on the topic of Davis, asking if there had been anything new since Saturday on that front. "No," he succinctly replied. So I guess if there's another press conference coming to Camden Yards before Christmas, it probably won't be Davis there.
In closing, a picture that is surely worth the full thousand words: